I’m curious, would you be more likely to support a bailout for the airline industry if executives returned the bulk of their compensation or chipped in from their own pockets?
Richard Branson, for example, is worth over $4BN, but has told Virgin Atlantic employees they need to take eight weeks of unpaid leave (which apparently means they cannot claim jobless benefits in the UK). Delta CEO Ed Bastian made a total of $14,982,448 in executive compensation last year. Incoming United CEO Scott Kirby made $5,459,414 while outgoing CEO Oscar Munoz made $10,493,832. Doug Parker earned $11,999,517.
Airline executives are paid a base salary plus performance-based bonuses based upon metrics, including stock price. The figures above are not cash payments and worth less today because airline stocks have dropped so precipitously. But the general pictures remains: executives were compensated very handsomely. Should they chip in if they want taxpayers to save their companies? It’s not like their money makes much of a dent, but it would be a symbolic step.
Look, I’m not trying to play the class warfare game here. I think that sort of compensation is obscene, but the disparity between the top and bottom is actually much smaller in the airline industry than many others. I’m not for placing caps on pay, even as I shake my head at the canard that such compensation levels are “required” to attract good talent.
But there’s this idea floating out there (even with assurances otherwise) that bailouts will reward bad behavior, even though COVID-19 is a black swan event. Would you, as a consumer and taxpayer, be more likely to support a bailout to sustain airlines and support airline workers with a giveback from C-suite? I ask this not just from a U.S. perspective, but to readers from outside the USA as well.
image: Virgin America (RIP)